THE Alliance of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) here yesterday threatened to boycott May 1’s Labor Day celebration activities to dramatize its protest over the government’s failure to approve its petition for a wage increase in northern Mindanao.
Incidentally, the labor group made the threat during a news conference called by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB). ALU-TUCP said the wage board failed to act on its petition for a P75 across-the-board wage increase for Region 10.
Nicanor Borja, ALU-TUCP vice president for northern Mindanao, said his group has been waiting for two years for a wage increase in the region. Last March, it filed the petition.
“Two months na ang among petition pero hangtod karon, wala pay action. May pa’g di na lang mi manguban karong May 1,” Borja said.
ALU-TUCP was invited to the news conference called in time for World Day for Safety and Health at Work celebrations.
For a time, he said, the group kept it mum because of the global financial crisis.
But Borja said it was time for companies in Region 10 to agree to the proposed wage increase since the region’s economy has stabilized based on a report made by the National Economic Development Agency (Neda) in northern Mindanao.
He said basic commodities have increased since 2008 and yet the workers’ salaries have not been paid more.
Borja said the last wage increase in thre region was implemented by the government in 2007. The current minimum wage is P256 per day.
“How can our workers stay healthy if they do not have just wages?” Borja asked rhetorically. He said that while industries have recouped their losses due to the financial crisis, workers’ salaries in the region remained still low.
Borja said he was irked over reports that the wage board would act on the petition after the May elections. “Wala man siguro labot ang eleksyon ani kay dili man ni mga kandidato ang management ug labor sector sa RTWPB,” he said.
The wage board’s labor sector representative, Milbert Macarambon tried, tried to appease Borja. He claimed the agency has already started looking into ALU-TUCP’s petition.
Macarambon said the wage board convened a technical working group to study the petition. He claimed three meetings were called since the petition was filed by ALU-TUCP.
He said public consultations would soon be made in the cities of Ozamiz, Iligan, Valencia, Gingoog and Cagayan de Oro.
Only after that will RTWPB act on the petition, said Macarambon.
But Borja said that since the RTWPB has not been giving serious attention to the petition, ALU-TUCP and its members would likely not join this year’s Labor Day celebration.
The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) lashed at ALU-TUCP for being part of the previous Labor Day celebrations spearheaded by the government.
“Only the ‘yellow’ unions under the banner of ALU-TUCP have joined [the Department of Labor and Employment’s] Labor Day celebrations. We know that until the workers get the security of tenure, and living and just wages, there is no reason to celebrate Labor Day,” said Wildon Barros, KMU coordinator for northern Mindanao.
The think tank, Ibon Foundation, forecast that there were indications that things would worsen for the country’s workers this year.
It said the ‘‘true unemployment rate’’ last year was at least 11.5 percent.
In a December report, Ibon research head Jose Enrique Africa said last year saw the most number of jobless Filipinos in the country’s history.
“These estimates try to correct for the government’s change in definition of ‘unemployed’ in April 2005, which reduces the number of unemployed by around 1.5 million and the unemployment rate by around 3.5 percent,” said Africa.
He said the average unemployment rate from 2001 to 2008 is 11.3 percent.
‘‘This is the worst eight-year period of sustained high joblessness since 1956,’’ according to Mr. Africa. “Unemployment rates were much lower in 1956-1960 (8 percent), 1961- 1970 (7.3 percent), 1971-1980 (5.4 percent), 1981-1990 (10.2 percent) and 1991- 2000 (9.8 percent).”
The National Statistical Coordination Board included it in its list northern Mindanao as among the regions in Mindanao that registered high poverty incidences (36.1 percent). –JIGGER JERUSALEM – Correspondent and MARK FRANCISCO – Staff member